Filmed during the first UK lockdown, entirely in isolation and on the artists smart phones, Séimí Campbelldirects Rachel John (Hamilton), Ramin Karimloo (Phantom of The Opera), Cedric Neal (Motown) and Rachel Tucker (Come From Away), and introducing Shem Omari James, with musical supervision by Adam Hoskins, musical direction from Josh Winstone and video editing by Danny Kaan.
“It’s about one moment. It’s about hitting the wall and having to make a choice… or take a stand… or turn around and go back.”
Written by Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown and sitting between musical and song cycle, this moving collection of powerful songs examines life, love, and the choices that we make as it transports audiences through time and space. This topical piece is an examination of a defining moment in history, a reflection of the state of the world in the Summer of 2020.
Rachel John plays Woman 1. Her previous theatre credits include Hamilton (Victoria Palace Theatre), The Color Purple – In Concert (Cadogan Hall), The Bodyguard (Dominion Theatre/UK tour), Memphis (Shaftesbury Theatre), Rent (UK tour), We Will Rock You, Sister Act (London Palladium) and The Lion King (Lyceum Theatre/international tour).
Ramin Karimloo plays Man 2. His previous concert credits for Lambert Jackson Productions includeDr Zhivago (Cadogan Hall). His other theatre credits include Chess in Concert (Umeda Arts Theatre), Jesus Christ Superstar in Concert, Evita (Theatre Orb Tokyo), Chess (The Kennedy Centre), Anastasia (Broadhurst Theatre), Murder Ballad (Arts Theatre), Les Miserables (Imperial Theatre/Princess of Wales Theatre/Queens Theatre/Palace Theatre), The Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary (Royal Albert Hall), Love Never Dies (Adelphi Theatre), Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert (O2 Arena), The Phantom of the Opera (Her Majesty’s Theatre) and Miss Saigon (UK tour).
Cedric Neal plays Man 1. His previous theatre credits include Back To The Future (Manchester Opera House), The View Upstairs (Soho Theatre), Stagger Lee, Death of a Salesman (Dallas Theater Center), Porgy and Bess (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre), and Dreamgirls (Signature Theatre). His credits for television include Friday Night Lights and The Good Guys.
Rachel Tucker plays Woman 2. Her previous theatre credits include Come From Away (Phoenix Theatre), Wicked (Apollo Victoria/The Gershwin Theater), Communicating Doors (Menier Chocolate Factory), The Last Ship (Neil Simon Theatre), Farragut North (Southwark Playhouse), We Will Rock You (Dominion Theatre), Dusty (Leicester Square Theatre), The Wizard of Oz, To Be Sure, Merry Christmas Betty Ford (Belfast Lyric Theatre), Tonight’s The Night, Tommy and The Full Monty (UK tour).
Shem Omari James plays Steam Train. Shem is a recent graduate and appeared in the London Palladium production of Songs For a New World in October 2020.
Séimí Campbell directs. His previous credits include My Son Pinocchio (Southwark Playhouse). As an assistant director his credits include Come From Away (Phoenix Theatre) and Jesus Christ Superstar (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre); and as resident director credits include Amour (Charing Cross Theatre), Cereal Café (The Other Palace) and Sweeney Todd (Shoreditch Town Hall).
It’s been a while, but following on from previous New Musical Talent subjects: Laura Tisdall, Dougal Irvine, Tim Prottey-Jones and Craig Adams, I’m proud to feature a new musical star in the making;
Composer Gary Albert Hughes has a varied and colourful theatrical résumé: from beginnings as a classically trained musician at Guildhall School of Music and the Royal Academy, to a career in musical theatre and pop. Gary is also one half of the writing team that composed and wrote the lyrics for E4’s hit reality dating show Playing It Straight (he also appeared every week as the singing troubadour). He has had his music featured in film, TV and theatre and is fast becoming a favourite on the new musical theatre writing scene. I had a chance to catch up with Gary in a rare break between projects.
Tell us a bit about your background and what inspired you to become a composer.
Well, before I ventured into musical theatre I was a classically trained flautist, pianist and composer and was all set to pursue a career as a classical musician. After my studies I realised I was not fulfilled creatively and it took another few years of trying different areas of the performing arts before realising that what makes my heart race is composing. Though I’ve been writing songs and music since junior school!
Which musicals or composers have influenced you?
I am inspired and influenced by so many people but there have been a few major influences. I met George Stiles as a young musician finding my feet and I’ve been inspired and in awe of how his career has gone from strength to strength. I’m also massively influenced by my classical training, and am always inspired by film music, especially that of John Barry.
Tell us about your writing partnership with Joan Taylor-Rowan?
About three years ago I was in the audience of a short story reading of Kandy Kottage at an evening called The Liar’s League. I knew it would make the most magical and interesting musical. I contacted Joan after wading through pages and pages of Google. We met for coffee and started work. I always ask for Joan to send me sketches of lyrics and ideas which I will then be inspired to write music to. Usually I’ll send her what I’ve composed and she will then work on more ideas, rhyme schemes and verses and choruses. Then when we get together to work on the song we will tweak it and neaten it up. We love to go The Dance Attic in Fulham where there’s a buzz of creativity. However, we are going over to Normandy at the end of January to finish Kandy Kottage in time for its showing at The Landor. I’m happy to say that we have a dear friendship and an amazing working relationship.
You recently released the Christmas love song Your Presence with Shona Lindsay, tell us more.
Your Presence was inspired by our followers and fans on Twitter and Facebook urging us to write a new festive love song. People were tired of hearing the same old Christmas songs everywhere. We took the bull by the horns and went for it. We were so thrilled when Shona agreed to release it for us. She has such a beautiful voice and such a touching way of using it, which is why she has had the amazing career she has. Colin Billing (Lend Me a Tenor) musically directed the track and did an amazing job bringing it to life.
You’ve been asked to be part of new musical theatre writing festival From Page to Stage at The Landor Theatre; tell us about that.
It’s a festival solely for new writing and emerging writers, the baby of Katy Lipson of Aria Entertainment and A Stage Kindly, two companies supporting new writing. We’re taking part in two slots: the first, Three Writers and a Piano will feature me and two fellow composers at the piano singing our own songs. I’ll hopefully be having a few West End singers with me as well as some fabulous up and coming singers. The second slot is for our brand new musical Kandy Kottage.
Your musical Kandy Kottage; what’s it about and what are your hopes for it?
At the Kandy Kottage you meet Kevin and his imaginary sidekicks The Kandy Kremes as they embark on a mission to win the heart of Greta, a Hollywood wannabe with a sweet tooth. It’s a fairy tale with a dark twist following the story of a young boy, neglected and lonely, seeking perfection in his world of confection! All he needs is someone to share it with. Greta has a passion for sweets but not for Kevin. He decides to woo her in the only way he knows – with sugar. Temples of toffee, palaces of pear-drops and sweet sculptures bloom under Kevin’s hands. But not all fairy tales have a happy ending. What lengths will Kevin go to, to keep Greta for himself? We believe this show has a life in an off West End theatre, or even the West End itself.
You’ve used social media to help promote your work; do you think it’s a helpful tool for artists starting out in musical theatre?
I think it’s essential for anyone trying to make a start in anything! If used correctly and appropriately it’s an extremely powerful tool. If one is professional, friendly and interesting, then Twitter and Facebook are wonderful tools for communicating, networking and contacting people when, before, it may have been impossible. Twitter is how we first made contact with Shona Lindsay about recording Your Presence.
Is there anyone you’d love to work with or write a song for?
Wow, what a question, yes, loads. Firstly we’re not the type of writers who only want somebody to sing our material because they’re a ‘name’. We’re interested in who the person is as an artist, their voice quality and what they represent as a vocalist and performer. I think Ramin Karimloo has a deeply touching and interesting quality to his voice, and would LOVE him to sing our ballad One Minute More. Louise Dearman is another voice I think is exceptional and unique and we’d love her to sing one of our big numbers.
After all of that, what’s next?
We are planning an album called Taylor-Rowan & Hughes Present… which will feature our best songs with a host of West End singers. We’ve already talked with Shona Lindsay, Nigel Richards and Shona White about singing a track, and are waiting to hear back from others. We’re in the process of applying for some funding too, so if anyone out there’s interested in supporting new British talent, then please do get in touch!
From Page to Stage runs from 15 February
see Gary Albert Hughes in Three Writers and a Piano on 26th February
and Kandy Kottage on 14th March at the Landor Theatre
Starring three West End veterans, Lee Mead, Stephen Rahman-Hughes and Ramin Karimloo, the West End Men present a selection of key songs from some of their most famous roles together with a collection of some of the world’s best known show tunes.
As Mead, Rahman-Hughes and especially Karimloo take to the stage, the cheers are almost deafening, for Karimloo the reception stops him literally in his tracks – asking the musical director to give him his key again as the crowd refuse to be quieted.
The three then rip through some of the most famous songs in musical theatre with some pop favourites thrown in for good measure. The quality of the singing is top-rate which is only to be expected from performers with their pedigree, but it is Karimloo who is the stand-out star of the night, his voice making the others look pedestrian in comparison – it is easy to see why he is regarded the West End’s best, and favourite star. There isn’t much more to say except that this was top quality, a sheer joy to watch and it sent the audience home hoarse of voice but with a spring in their step and a song in their heart. Hopefully it won’t be long before the trio make a welcome return to Glasgow. An excellent night’s entertainment.
Once again I find myself typing something I never thought I would – so here for your delectation are three of the most famous Phantoms of the Opera sporting our national dress. Above is Earl Carpenter and below Ramin Karimloo and John Owen Jones. It just makes me wonder what it is about actors from Phantom and their eagerness to don a skirt.
Now this is a difficult one – a concert by probably the biggest male-lead in West End musicals at the moment, however, this show is his attempt to break free from the musical theatre world into the mainstream. The problem is that the majority of the audience are here on the strength of his performances and reputation as a musical theatre performer. So how the non-musical theatre numbers go down is going to be interesting…
…so how did it go?
Well it’s a tribute to Karimloo’s engaging warmth and sincerity, as well as his phenomenal talent, that right from the first song, he had the audience in the palm of his hands and kept them there throughout. The audience itself was on astounding form – with whoops and cheers ringing out throughout the auditorium all night. Karimloo himself tweeted after the show:
“Thank you Glasgow. Last night was unreal. I’ll never forget it. We had such a great time. Now for a long drive home. But so worth it. Thanks for the kilt love. It was a kind present sent to me before arriving to Scotland from my Scottish friend. I’m grateful. See you soon.”
as did his guests for the evening Jonathan Ansell and Simon Bailey:
His debut UK album, which entered at number 16 in the charts was the focus of the night and despite my misgivings about this being neither a musical theatre night or an out and out concert of his own material – this was just a sublime evening’s entertainment.
There were a few brief trips to Musical Theatre Land withThe Impossible Dream,Radames Letter, ‘Til I Hear You Sing, a banjo version of Oh What a Beautiful Morning, Somewhere and Bring Him Homeand, of course, an encore of Music of theNight: these showcased his considerable vocal skills at their best, however, they weren’t what moved me most. He actually looked uncomfortable singing these songs and I think the rapturous reception with which his own material was received made him all the more keen to shake off the shackles of musical theatre.
Each of the original or collaborative compositions from the album were delivered with such sincerity that you couldn’t help but be won over. All of the songs from the album also played out much better live than on the recording – the life he gave to them on stage elevated them to a level that the production of the album couldn’t.
He is obviously a deeply spiritual man and he talked about his journey from Iran to Canada via Italy, and eventually his leaving his home and family to come to London with one suitcase to “become the Phantom” and now “well I’ve done that – what now?” This concert was aptly titled The Road To Find Out and the way the material was presented here, really made you want to go on the journey with him.
His first guest Jonathan Ansell provided a musical theatre moment for the crowd with Gethsemane from Jesus Christ Superstar, a duet on Muse’s Guiding Light and a surprisingly good version of Queen’sSomebody To Love which raised the roof.
Second guest Simon Bailey, currently Raoul in the Phantom national tour also provided a moment of musical theatre magic with Why God Why? from Miss Saigon as well as an emotional duet with Karimloo which Bailey dedicated to his recently deceased father.
The night finished with a second encore of Green Day’sTime of Your Life with the good citizens of Glasgow providing the final words of the song.
This is a calculated move away from musical theatre and it’s great to see an artist of Karimloo’s talent spread his wings, previously I would have cautioned against any musical theatre artist completely abandoning his roots – but I would urge Karimloo to have the courage of his convictions and take the time to grow and develop as a songwriter as this was a truly magical night. I would also hate to see him abandon the theatre stage as his is a rare talent – the West End would be bereft without the promise of him eventually returning.
I was a fan before, but I’m an even bigger fan now. A truly special evening.
No your eyes aren’t deceiving you as I thought mine were when I saw this! That is musical theatre superstar Ramin Karimloo – yes the one that was The Phantom and Jean Valjean – wearing a dodgy rugby outfit and doing whatever it is that rugby players do when they train! Whilst trawling for photographs for another post I stumbled upon these. The explanation from Glasgow warriors site goes as follows;
“Glasgow Warriors received a special visitor to Scotstoun last week, stage star Ramin Karimloo popping in to be put through his paces by our very own Troy Nathan ahead of the launch of his new solo album. Karimloo has been the face of two of the longest-running musicals in the West End, Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera. He’s currently touring his solo album ‘Ramin’, with a date coming up at Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall on Sunday 20 May. Nathan is taking care of marketing and promotion for the show, in line with his plans to pursue a career in the field post-rugby. At Scotstoun, the pair got a taste of the other’s line of work, Nathan showcasing a singing voice that may need a little refining, while Karimloo tackled some rugby skills and fitness drills to impressive effect.”
Last night’s DVD was the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary concert with a cast, orchestra and choir of 500.
Alfie Boe (above) is Jean Valjean and showed remarkable control of his operatic tenor, delivering a full-throttle vocal intensity only when absolutely necessary in the role. His inspirational rendition of “Bring Him Home” stopped the show. Boe appeared sincerely moved by the enthusiastic standing ovation of the over 18,000 in attendance at the O2 arena. It was completely deserved.
Norm Lewis who plays Javert, is a Broadway veteran and here he finally has a starring, rather than supporting role. I was lucky enough to see him play Javert in the full production of Les Mis at The Queen’s Theatre. Thanks to this DVD, many others will now get the chance to hear his excellent voice.
Ramin Karimloo freed from his Phantom makeup was a handsome, inspiring and strong-voiced Enjoloras and received a massive cheer at the end.
Nick Jonas (a controversial casting) is not equal in voice in any way to his co-performers and had the most peculiar expressions throughout, but here (above) with Katie Hall as Cosette, he made for a suitably youthful Marius.
The highly talented and ever reliable Hadley Fraser (above) is a fine Grantaire, his voice here is astounding, his range and tone are just fabulous, it’s a pity he doesn’t have a bigger role. Fraser is another performer I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in the Queen’s Theatre production – that time playing Javert.
Matt Lucas fulfils a lifetime dream of appearing in Les Mis and uses his comedic talents to their best effect as Thenardier.
Lea Salonga is Fantine and equips herself well enough, but I must admit I found her American twang a bit strong.
Special mention must also go to little Robert Madge (above), a scene-stealer as Gavroche.
This is, of course, a concert, but in order to add more of a theatrical feeling to the performance the actors were costumed in either designs from the original production or the 25th Anniversary UK tour. The production design was enhanced with a multi-level set to accommodate the 500-member cast, orchestra and choir. In lieu of the building of the barricade, the massive lighting tracks descended and tilted complemented by spectacular lighting effects. Video projections from the stage version added further drama to replace scenes that could not be conveyed in a concert environment. Overall only minor cuts were made from the full theatrical version – and none of the cuts particularly hurt the final product.
Due to the constraints of a concert production, and the fact that this was being filmed for both cinema and DVD release the actors had obviously been told to rein in the theatrics. Several of the ensemble were on the verge of acting out the roles they had either played before or were currently playing in the West End in full theatricality if not for the reminder of the microphone in front of them.
A highlight of the evening was the appearance of The Four Valjeans (above l-r); Simon Bowman (Queen’s Theatre cast), Alfie Boe, Colm Wilkinson (the original cast) and John Owen-Jones (Barbican Theatre cast) their version of “Bring Him Home” was utterly moving. Each of the four are supremely gifted performers. I love this musical, it really does have the power to move you. I defy anyone not to have a tear in their eye at the end of this and I urge anyone who gets the chance to go and see it on stage.
I watched this last night after a fortuitous sale purchase. Now it’s easy to criticise everything Andrew Lloyd Webber produces. So with an open mind, I sat down to enjoy this.
And did I? Absolutely! In the confines of The Royal Albert Hall which by no stretch of the imagination can be called a theatre – this was magnificent.
It stars Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess as The Phantom and Christine, both veterans of the original Phantom and the recent follow up Love Never Dies.
Now, Karimloo has his detractors among theatre critics but he is also regarded by many as the golden boy of musical theatre. Here, he is impressive. His voice soars and he is, in turn, sinister, menacing and heartbreakingly vulnerable.
The supporting cast is made up of Phantom veterans and members of the current Her Majesty’s production. It has a cast and orchestra of over 200 in contrast to the usual 40. On the whole they equip themselves very well, however the inclusion of Wynne “Go Compare” Evans was a bit of a jarring note.
Outside of his Gino Compario costume I’m not sure anyone in the audience actually knew who he was, and when he was called to fluff some notes for comedic effect the audience didn’t quite get the joke and remained silent.
Hadley Fraser plays Raoul and has an incredible voice, with great strength and power and phenomenal tone, he was absolutely excellent in the role, playing it with a maturity that is often lacking in other castings. Instead of the spoilt little rich boy whom you wonder why Christine would ever consider, he gives The Phantom a run for his money and you really believe Christine’s dilemma.
As with many recent productions this features a lot of projected scenery, now I’m not thoroughly convinced of its effectiveness as it can sometimes lack atmosphere but here, combined with props – it works.
If you get a chance to see this go for it, it really is worth it. If you’re a fan of The Phantom already you’ll love it!